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Only These Kinds of People Will Buy Nomination Forms for N100m by Farooq A. Kperogi

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There is an unexampled swarming of the presidential nomination arena by a motley crowd of wannabes. One argument for this is that Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo have been such dreadful catastrophes as “president” and “vice president” that all that anyone who succeeds them has to do to impress Nigerians is to just be marginally better than they are, which doesn’t take a lot. I’ll come back to this point later.

Well, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) increased its presidential nomination fees to N100 million (up from N45 million in 2019 and N27.5 million in 2015), people thought it would thin out the crowd of contestants. But it appears to be doing the opposite. Both the wheat and the chaff—mostly the chaff—now litter the presidential nomination field.

So, what kinds of people would pay a non-refundable fee of N100 million just for a chance to run for the primary election of a political party in which victory isn’t guaranteed, in which a snowball has a better chance of surviving in hell than them winning? I can identify at least four kinds of people.

The first are overly bullish political investors. These are people who see politics as an investment and who are unrealistically overconfident that their investment will yield bountiful returns. For them, political office isn’t an opportunity for service; it’s a doorway to immense personal enrichment.

Many of the presidential wannabes in the major political parties don’t expect to win their party’s nomination. They are simply ploughing back some of the money they stole from the government into long-shot presidential contests as down payments for ministerial positions or other “juicy” appointments from whoever emerges as the president in their political party.

Even if their party doesn’t win the presidential election, nothing is lost because the money didn’t come from their hard work. Plus, politicians are a special breed of hopeless optimists. They see victory even in the menacing jaws of defeat.

This is the logical graduation of a new kind of elite corruption that the Buhari regime birthed in the last few years. No appointment is now merit-driven. From ministerial appointments down to janitorial personnel in the federal civil service, everything is lubricated by bribes.

In a December 17, 2019, article titled “Ministership for Sale: Up to N2.5b Per Slot,” I disclosed that “Four different, dependable, and independent sources who don’t know each other but who’re close to the corridors of power were eerily united in telling me that except for a few ministerial nominations (notably those of Adamu Adamu, Ali Isa Pantami, Mohammed Musa Bello, Raji Fashola whom Buhari himself personally penciled— and those that were conceded to Tinubu) every other post was literally auctioned off to the highest bidder.”

That’s why there are no apolitical “technocrats” in the Buhari cabinet like there used to be in previous administrations. No honest, hardworking, and self-respecting professional would leave their day job and give financial inducement to a cabal of Aso Rock thieves just to be appointed a minister.

Since Buhari and Osinbajo have officially made governance a raucous, in-your-face, no-consequence stealing bazaar, people understand the presidential nomination fees as deposits for a chance to steal with impunity from 2023 onwards. So, it’s a grand political pay-to-play scam.

The second kinds of people who would pay a N100 million nomination fee without seeing it as an investment from which they’ll reap hefty rewards later are rich drug addicts who are trapped in a state of hyper-arousal

dissociation, who live in a drugged and drunken alternate universe.

Who knows if that is why Buba Marwa, the chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA,) wrote to APC on April 27 asking to be allowed to conduct mandatory drug tests on the plethora of presidential aspirants that are crowding the party’s platform?

Premium Times reported Marwa to have said that he would send a similar letter to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and to other political parties because “Nigeria requires a mentally stable set of leaders to pilot its affairs.”

Like the rest of us, the NDLEA boss must have reasoned that only drug-induced megalomania can inspire some of these aspirants to think they can be president of a complex country like Nigeria that Buhari and Osinbajo have almost destroyed beyond recognition.

I can bet my bottom dollar that several of these delusional presidential wannabes, whom we all know, will fail a drug test, which is why the idea of a drug test will die a natural death.

The third kind of people who will shell out N100 million to buy a presidential nomination form without expectation of dubious rewards in the future are mentally unhinged individuals with lots of stolen money to throw away.

Many of them are obviously psychotic. Psychosis is defined as a “severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted.” For example, anyone who genuinely believes that God spoke to him and urged him to run for office is demonstrably psychotic.

I expect the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), in conjunction with the Association of Psychiatric Nurses of Nigeria (APNON), to ask to be allowed to conduct mental health examinations on presidential aspirants. It would be a valid and justified request because there are many undiagnosed psychiatric patients running for office right now.

The fourth group of people who would purchase a N100 million nomination form even if they are political nonentities are political gamblers, that is, corruptly rich, recklessly wasteful risk takers who don’t fear financial loss because they are animated by a desperate hope for gain or just a frisson of excitement.

Of course, my list doesn’t include people who, because of their networks, political pedigree, proximity to power, etc. are within striking distance of winning their party’s nomination and possibly winning the national election. But among such people are easy glory seekers who want to take advantage of the Buhari/Osinbajo unprecedented failure to shine.

As I pointed out in a February 3, 2018, column titled “How Buhari Has Lowered the Bar of Governance,” it would take the littlest of efforts for Buhari’s successor to impress Nigerians because the Buhari regime went from lowering the bar of governance to throwing the entire bar away.

So, because it took Buhari and Osinbajo six months (actually eight months if you consider that they were elected two months before they were inaugurated) to constitute a familiar, predictable cast of underwhelming characters as ministers, any administration that appoints ministers in the first month of being in power would be celebrated.

Because Buhari is habitually unconcerned and indifferent in the face of heartrending national tragedies, any president who shows just a little bit of emotion through sympathy visits and national broadcasts would win hearts and minds.

Because Buhari never fires anyone who underperforms, any president that fires incompetent people, especially in the security sector, would be praised as proactive and sensitive.

Governing boards of government agencies are the engines of governance. It took Buhari and Osinbajo nearly three years to constitute governing board members, which was why I characterized their administration as an example of “ungovernance.” Even when they did, they appointed dead people and people who weren’t consulted before their appointments.

Any president who appoints members of governing boards of government agencies in the first few months of being in power would be hailed as a miracle worker in governance.

These are just a few examples. But this is really distressing because there is much more at stake in the task of governing Nigeria than just transcending Buhari’s incompetence and mediocrity.

Strictly Personal

When the lenders come calling, govt will do worse than Nalule by Joachim Buwembo

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When the now 40-year-old Gertrude Nalule lost her husband in a car crash a couple of years back, a bleak future stared at her with her seven children, five of them biological. But her good neighbours in the Kampala suburb of Namungona came to her rescue and contributed to having a modest house built for her, though not to perfect completion. An apparently good neighbour offered her a small loan of Ush3 million shillings (less than $1,000) to boost her groceries business.

But soon after contracting the debt, Covid-19 struck and the business collapsed. The neighbour demanded his money and amidst painful toiling, Nalule kept paying bits amounting to what she had borrowed. But she hadn’t reckoned with what is now called a mbaata (duck) agreement in Kampalaspeak, agreement moneylenders now prefer, were like a sitting duck, the borrower is made to sign a document declaring that they have sold their property to the lender at a sum much higher than that disbursed.

Nalule had signed a mbaata agreement to the effect that she had sold her home for Ush10 million (about $3,000) and the neighbour wanted “his” house and plot since she had defaulted on the loan. He tried to make her accept a couple of millions to complete the “sale” and she refused to take it. He went to court, which ruled in his favour, and Nalule was sentenced to prison for six months for defaulting. After serving two months in jail, her story ran on NTV, catching the attention of the indefatigable Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, who stormed the country’s main prison of Luzira.

Rotting in prison

Nabbanja discovered to her horror that besides Nalule, about 650 other women are also rotting in prison after signing mbaata agreements. Nabbanja swiftly paid off some Ush2.5 million, which the money lender said Nalule still owed in interest, and secured her release.

But even as Nalule cried in relief calling Nabbanja “mother” and “saviour” as she was driven in an official car to go a reunite with her children, she and the prime minister were in for a rude shock. The money lender insisted the home was his and demanded that Nalule’s wretched family (the eldest girl of 17 had missed her O’level final exams while the middle one had missed her primary leaving exams as a result of the mother’s imprisonment) quit immediately. Nabbanja caused a session with the magistrate who had the jailed Nabbanja and yes, he insisted that Nalule surrenders the house, that the law is the law. The prime minister with the victim were left with the mbaata sitting on their chest.

The prime minister’s woes were not about to end. Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo was furious with her tampering with the independence of the judiciary. A statement was immediately issued assuring the judicial officers of his support both in private and public. A couple of days later, the chief justice used the occasion of a judiciary conference to put the prime minister in her place. He explicitly told her to use her zeal in more useful endeavours like supervising the Executive’s non-performing projects including a power dam that closed two months after commissioning. And so on the Nabbanja bashing continued.

‘Duck’ agreements

But as the learned brothers and sisters continue bashing the down-to-earth Nabbanja, they seem not bothered that the country is in the same position as the 650 Ugandan women jailed in their country after signing “duck” agreements and losing their property as well. Yes, the country borrows from foreign money lenders who behave no better than local shylocks who take advantage of widows. We borrow for projects and only a tiny fraction of the loan ever comes to the country. Heaven knows how many billions on our debt account are for granite and road-building materials dug from our soil, most of the rest going to consultancy services paid abroad. The government’s contribution to the project does most of the funding anyway. One lender demanded for the government’s contribution upfront and took it away to earn interest in deposits. A vigilant parliament committee forced them to return the money. Another lender took the country’s contribution to first build a road, and guess where? In wealthy Kuwait. As our judiciary pours scorn on “duck” women victims, someone should tell them the whole country is treated like a duck by foreign lenders.

 

 

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Strictly Personal

‘He’s one of our own’ is a crippling mindset for nation by Tee Ngugi

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Recently, a new senator listed on his Twitter account the number of tribesmen and women he was able — through his influence — to get appointed to various high government positions. The post made no reference to their competency or integrity. What it was celebrating was the ethnic character of the appointees.

The post, innocent on the surface, indicates that Kenya, and Africa by extension, has never really moved away from a virulent and crippling mindset. This mindset gauges an ethnic community’s progress by the number of tribesmen appointed as Cabinet ministers, principal secretaries, and heads of parastatals. In the logic of this retrogressive mentality, it does not matter whether the tribesmen run down a ministry through incompetence, or bankrupt a parastatal through thievery. That is beside the point. The point is that the person running the ministry or department is “one of our own”.

Here is the problem with this mentality. When a person runs down a ministry or bankrupts a parastatal, everyone, including the community from which the managers belong, suffers. When a public hospital no longer functions due to mismanagement, the fallout does not spare the communities from which the health PS and minister hail. When one celebrates the award of a road tender to a tribesman who is not qualified, the resulting shoddy work affects all those who use that road.

Forget easily

The problem with Kenyans is that we forget so easily. We have forgotten that Kanu-era mismanagement and thievery hurt everyone. When Kenya was under Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi, their communities did not have the freedom, denied to others, to criticise their regimes. All who dared to do so ended up in jail, or worse, irrespective of their ethnic nationality. By contrast, when the economy improved under Mwai Kibaki, it did not only improve for his community but for everyone.

So the lesson we should have learnt from history and experience is that an ethnic community’s progress is best served by competent and qualified persons, irrespective of their ethnic background. From this viewpoint, it is possible to have your entire community in government and yet have dilapidated schools and hospitals. It is also possible to have no one from your community in government and enjoy a growing economy and quality services.

There are two competing ideas that will determine whether we remain a backward nation characterised by poverty and dysfunction. One proposes that competence and integrity be the drivers of the development process while the other situates ethnic kinship at the centre of the development project. What if the senator had boasted about the number of women, youth, IT specialists, and progressive thinkers he was able to bring into government irrespective of the tribe?

Tragically, we still have a long way to go before we make that mental shift.

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